Out on Their Own
BY Karen Iris Tucker
March 25 2009 12:00 AM ET
Saliers, 45, wrote the
CD's ebullient single "What Are You Like,"
radio-ready pop that sounds like a blissed-out love song. She
says the cut is actually a tribute to two friends "who
really saved me when I was having a rough time." By that
she means, "A relationship breakup and midlife crisis.
That, and the war in Iraq and the Bush administration. That's
about it," she jokes.
"What Are You
Like" has the potential lyrically and stylistically to
endear itself to mainstream listeners. Over the years, Saliers
says, "I do think that we have been boxed in by labels and
that we might be more easily dismissed because of that. I have
always felt that our music had a broader scope than what we
were given credit for."
The latter point stands
up, particularly considering the mid-career success Saliers and
Ray experienced with the female-centered Lilith Fair concert
tour, an ideal forum to showcase their music.
Shaming of the Sun
, released around the time of the tour in 1997, debuted at
number 7 on the Billboard album chart, buoyed by the Lilith
"Lilith Fair was
remarkable; I consider that tour a highlight of our entire
career," says Saliers, who recalled reveling in the
camaraderie of all the artists, from headliner and founder
Sarah McLachlan to Sheryl Crow to Angelique
Since that success,
Indigo Girls' mainstream popularity has ebbed considerably,
while their lesbian fan base has remained true blue. This is
not to say that their shows -- typically held in theaters such
as Radio City Music Hall, in New York, and at summer folk
festivals -- are entirely homogenous. The duo has witnessed a
new generation of both gay and straight fans -- the children of
die-hard enthusiasts -- attending their concerts. The
difference now is that fans snap cell phone
photos rather than tossing lingerie.
"They don't do
that anymore," says Ray, laughing.
Is she saddened that
her audiences are now largely made up of gay women,
with mainstream fandom perhaps a thing of the past?
"When I listen to
Joe Strummer, I'm not thinking,
That's heterosexual white boy music.
Wow, I can really relate to that song.
I want some white guy to hear what I am doing and relate to
it," Ray explains. "And I want some black guy to
relate to it. Songwriters want people to relate. You can't
pick that -- you can't choose that. You can't force it.
You just have to be happy for who does relate."
In the context of the
unusual Lilith Fair experience, where female singer-songwriters
rode the airwaves in impressive numbers, Saliers recognizes
where her music is today. "Singer-songwriters will
probably mostly remain on the fringe of popular music,"
she says, "but their fans are loyal. They buy records --
not just singles -- and they come to shows. Serious women
writers and artists are able to maintain long, successful, and
meaningful careers. I am thinking of amazing women like Lucinda
Williams or Patty Griffin."